United Kingdom Brahms, Dutilleux and Ravel: Alina Ibragimova (violin), London Symphony Orchestra / Lionel Bringuier (conductor), Barbican Hall, Barbican Centre, London, 22.2.2018. (AS)
Brahms – Violin Concerto in D Op.77
Dutilleux – Métaboles
Ravel – Daphnis et Chloé, Suite No.2
It is often the case that interest in a composer wanes soon after he has died. This seems not to be so in the case of Henri Dutilleux, who passed away in 2013 at the age of 97. In fact, the incidence of performances of his music seems to have increased. This performance of his Métaboles may help to explain why it has been so. Dating from as long ago as 1964, the work has enormous variety of expression, orchestral colour, timbre and tempo, yet it has a sense of cogency and unity that so many works of this kind written more recently entirely lack. Usually when one reads that a new work has a large percussion section this means a question of striving for novelty and effect. Métaboles certainly has a large percussion section but Dutilleux’s use of it ensures that it underlines and illumines textures and musical argument as part of the ensemble as a whole and doesn’t draw attention to itself. The scoring throughout each orchestral section is masterly, as befits a French composer following in the footsteps of his compatriot composers, Debussy and Ravel.
Dutilleux wrote that it was his intention ‘to present one or several ideas in a different order and from different angles, until, by successive stages, they are made to change character completely’. His intentions would seem to have been realised with complete success. The LSO played with confidence and security under the baton of the 31-year-old Bringuier, who is currently chief conductor and musical director of the Zürich Tonhalle Orchestra.
Following the performance of Métaboles, Bringuier ended the concert with a stimulating account of the Second Daphnis et Chloé Suite. In this he encouraged the flautist to indulge in a slower and more expressive account of his long solo than is usual, and he took the final dance at a rate that was quite hectic but still very well controlled. Needless to say, the LSO played with outstanding virtuosity.
In the first half of the concert Alina Ibragimova gave a very accomplished, well-shaped performance of the Brahms Violin Concerto. Her technique was impressive, but her quality of tone lacked dominating strength, and somehow she failed adequately to convey the work’s warmth and intensity of expression. There seemed to be rather more personality and flair in Bringuer’s shaping of the orchestral part and in the LSO’s eloquent response to his conducting.